Nature India | Indigenus

Lindau lessons: Science is like a philharmonic orchestra

In June 2016, 21 young Indian scientists made a trip to the beautiful island of Lindau, in south west Germany, to attend the 66th Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting, dedicated this year to physics. In this sunny side of Germany, 29 Nobel Laureates met with 400 young scientists from 80 countries in an informal setting, which has come to be celebrated as the hallmark of these meetings.

On a boat trip from Lindau to Mainau island, Nature India caught up with the Indian delegation consisting of master’s students, PhDs and Post-docs, freshly chosen every year since 2001 by India’s Department of Science and Technology (DST) in collaboration with the German Research Foundation (DFG) to be part of this science extravaganza. In this blog series ‘Lindau lessons‘, Nature India will bring to you the unique experience of some of the young scientists from India who basked in the Lindau sun this yearJoin their online conversation using the #lindaulessons hashtag.

Among the many representatives from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Kolkata in the Indian delegation was Rajashik Tarafder, from the institute’s Center of Excellence in Space Systems. In the very opening performance of the Lindau meet — a harmony of cello, piano and violins by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra  — Rajashik found a deeper meaning: the interdisciplinary spirit of science. A meaning that resonated through the week-long science and culture extravaganza.

Rajashik Tarafder

Rajashik Tarafder

The island-town of Lindau greets you with cobbled streets, old buildings and a scenic glimpse of the Alps across the harbour. Bordered by four countries and surrounded by lake Constance, there is so much Lindau has to offer. Perhaps it was this beauty which inspired the founders to start the Nobel Laureates Meetings here in the first place.

Since its inception in 1951, it has grown to such proportions that it works somewhat like an annual clock for the residents of Lindau, much like the passage of migratory birds in primitive cultures. If the birds didn’t come, you knew the world was falling apart. Fortunately, the meet doesn’t seem to be facing any such departure from schedule anytime soon.

The meeting began with the harmony of a cello, a piano and violins by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, perhaps indicating the unison with which science should be practised. And what followed reflected this very spirit.

The following few days were overwhelming as all of us tried to gain from the wealth of information and experience we were exposed to. We kept learning and the laureates kept inspiring. In this regard, I owe a special thanks to Prof. Gerardus ‘t Hooft, winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize. His desire to keep challenging and questioning even well-accepted views for a better understanding of Nature symbolised the journey of science to me. I have received much strength and hope from him.

We forged collaborations and in the process we even made friends. We talked about barriers and how science would help us tear them down. We hoped for a better world and vowed silently to play our parts in it. It was humbling to know that each person in the room was excellent at what he/she did and shared the same dreams as you.

I am slightly cautious of vouching for the amount of science I learnt from the meet. I am more open to admitting that this meet celebrates science in all its glory. It changes your perspective, your approach. It makes you feel that you are a part of the global scientific community.

The best summary of the meeting is in its own mantra- ‘Educate, Inspire and Connect’. We did learn, we were inspired and we connected.

My gratitude goes out to the likes of Wolfgang Schürer,  and closer home to Dr. Sivaji Chadaram (DST, India) and his colleagues, who enable such meetings and the participation of young scientists in them. We all admire the work of such scientists and administrators and owe it to them for giving us these global platforms. They have only made science richer.

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